Religion and Beliefs
Although numerous scriptures, ritual manuals, and guides to conduct from Medieval China are preserved in the received Daoist canon, Chinese historical works are largely silent on the lives and beliefs of Daoists. How are we to know what Daoism meant to its priests and laity? How are we to understand an individual's engagement with this religion across the span of a lifetime? One important source is tomb records (muzhiming), which record the most significant facts concerning a person's life. Because tomb records were created for such large numbers of people, and have been found in such numbers, they provide an important resource for understanding the lives of individuals who were not prominent in court politics, and hence unlikely to appear in historical accounts. The coverage of women, in particular, provides much needed information on a segment of the population otherwise almost entirely absent from the historical record. This paper will assess the resources available for the study of tomb records, survey surviving records for material related to the history of Daoism, and draw some preliminary conclusions concerning the light this material sheds on the role of commoners, women, and lay devotees on the Daoism of late medieval China.